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Apr 3, 2010 06:10 PM

How to make lemon cake taste like lemon

I made a "Lemon Chocolate Marble Cake" from a Hershey's Cookbook. I was sneaky and copied it at the store; since my husband was my partner in crime and helped me make doublecheck the ingredients, I'm fairly certain I got the measurements correct. But the lemon cake part doesn't taste like lemon at all. It called for 2tsp grated lemon peel and 1/4 tsp lemon juice. I added all the peel I could get off my lemon which was a little less than 3 tsp and 1/2 tsp because 1/4 tsp seemed like a crazy small amount. Could it have been 1/4 cup and I made a big mistake in writing down the recipe?

The cake tastes good, though, as a regular marble cake. Just no lemon flavor. (Unfortunately it stuck to my new Bundt pan, so it looks awful. Good thing we weren't expecting any guests for Easter dinner. Don't understand why my Pam for baking didn't work this time--but the interior of this Nordicware pan is off-white, so I couldn't see the Pam as well as I would on a dark pan.)

I'm not a baker and don't feel comfortable changing amounts on my own, so I don't know how to increase the lemon flavor without something going wrong. Any help would be appreciated since I would like to try this again--with a heavier coating on the pan!


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  1. If the cake baked up ok, I would just add some pure lemon oil - Boyajian makes a fabulous one. It really boosts the lemon flavour in anything without affecting the baking properties. A tsp. of the stuff will make a huge difference.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Nyleve

      Where do you get that lemon oil? Would a Whole Foods carry it? We're kind of limited in Birmingham on exotic groceries, but our relatively new Whole Foods has helped a lot. Now I wish we could get a Trader Joe's...

      1. re: Birmingham

        I just looked online and saw that Boyajian is sold at Costco--we have one here but I don't want to join just to get the oil. Giada di Laurentis has a recipe on the Foodnetwork that calls for lemon oil and her recipe for it is 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil with the zest of one lemon. Is that the same at the Boyajian lemon oil?

        1. re: Birmingham

          Can you find a friend who belongs to Costco to pick up the lemon oil for you? It is as wonderful as everyone says, and it seems to keep forever in the fridge. Contrary to what Nyleve suggests, I use only four or five drops of the oil per recipe, not even 1/8 teaspoonful (this is in addition to whatever juice or zest the recipe calls for, but then skip any lemon extract called for). The essential oil is very potent, more so than lemon extract, and much more so than lemon juice. But it will turn your lemon cakes, tea breads, and pies into extraordinary delights. Use a light hand until you find your comfort zone.

          I don't believe the Boyajian oil is the same as Giada's recipe. As I understand, the Boyajian essential oil is only the oil from lemon peels, not zest steeped in oil. You know when you zest a lemon how there's a spritz in the air? That's the oil being lost. Microplanes do a better job of capturing the oil, I think. Alternatively, try to zest over the dish or drink you're working on so some of the oil settles into it.

          1. re: nemo

            Thanks--olive oil didn't sound like the right thing to add to a cake! So if the lemon part of the marble cake is only 2/3 cup of batter, do you think 4-5 drops would be right? And still do the 2 t of zest? I don't think the 1/4 t of lemon juice is necessary as it wasn't enough to do anything at all.

            1. re: Birmingham

              For such a small amount of batter start with 4 to 5 drops. You can take a tiny taste to see if the lemon comes through. As the old saying goes - you can always add more, but you can't take away.

        2. re: Birmingham

          I've seen Boyajian oils at Whole Foods. They have an intense but natural flavor.

          1. re: Birmingham

            Honestly don't know if WF would carry it, but you could probably get in from some online source. I live in Canada, so my sources are pretty different. Strangely enough, I've picked it up at a discount outlet - Winners - which is similar to TJ Maxx or Marshalls. But I've also gotten it at a shmancy gourmet shop. The oil is entirely natural and much nicer than extract. It adds a real jolt of lemon flavour without the bitterness that would be present if you added more zest.

            1. re: Nyleve

              I guess this is right -- I like bitterness so I'm happy adding more zest, but I'm sure some people would not like it.

              1. re: Nyleve

                Nyleve, do you mind divulging which stores exactly in your locale carry the Boyajian oil? From what you describe it sounds like a very nice addition to the pantry. You might be able to guess from my username that I am extra enthusiastic about this.

                Thanks in advance!

                1. re: tarteaucitron

                  I've gotten it at Winners in Peterborough - but they don't always carry it. If they do, it's in that section where they put all the olive oils and vinegars and stuff. And I've bought it at a place called Herma's Fine Food and Gifts which is a shockingly well-stocked store on Highway 28 just north of Port Hope. They carry an amazing selection of cheeses, tableware, chocolates - the works. Totally have no idea how they survive in the middle of nowhere, but they must have a devoted clientele.

                  1. re: Nyleve

                    Oh. It looks like your locale is a bit further away from mine than I thought. Herma's sounds like a wonderful store to stop by, though, in case I happen to be in that area. Thanks for the tips still!

              2. re: Nyleve

                Most of the "lemon" flavour in lemon desserts comes from the lemon zest, not from the lemon juice. Dial up the zest for more flavour.

              3. I'm going to guess it was supposed to be 1/4 cup lemon juice, since 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice is not going to be anything you can taste. Or perhaps it could've been lemon extract?

                I like things tart, so often with lemon-flavored things I try to add as much lemon flavor as possible to up the lemon factor. You cannot always just add more juice -- it depends on the recipe, and the juice tends to lose some of its flavor when it's cooked. But you can almost always add more rind, so that's what I do -- I add a lot of rind. If you tell us the recipe maybe also we can give more ideas.

                Keep in mind, too, that chocolate is a strong flavor and to make a chocolate cake taste lemony you have to use quite a bit of lemon. I have made a chocolate cake where I boiled an entire lemon for several hours and then pureed the whole thing (got this idea from Claudia Roden's orange-almond cake recipe), and that worked very well. The cake was nice and lemony.

                As for the pan try buttering and flouring. It does add more calories but it works better.

                8 Replies
                1. re: visciole

                  Okay, one thing I haven't figured out yet with Chowhound is where I'm supposed to post replies. (I flunked making outlines in school--when you had to write a paper but make an outline of it first. Still don't get it.)

                  I made my husband stop by at Cracker Barrel so I could check the "Hershey's Recipe Collection" cookbook for the "Chocolate Lemon Marble Cake" recipe--and I was right: it really does call for only 1/4 tsp lemon juice and 2 tsp grated lemon peel. What you do is make a batter with vanilla as the only flavor, remove 2/3 cup and add Hershey's cocoa, sugar, water and some baking soda. Then with the rest of the batter--and it has to be about 3 cups I'd say--you add the lemon juice and zest. But that's just nuts to think such a small amount of lemon juice would give the cake a lemon flavor. Being new to cake baking, though, I didn't want to mess with the recipe much and was only brave enough to add 1/2 tsp instead of 1/4 tsp.

                  The other odd thing in the recipe is that it says to take this "lemon" batter and drop spoonfuls into the bundt pan. Well it's not thick enough to drop by spoonful--you just have to pour it in the pan and then add the chocolate batter by spoonfuls. It came out a bit on the small side; that is, it didn't rise like the Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake does. But it did come out moist and very good--just don't tell anyone the white part is supposed to be lemon.

                  So I'll look for this lemon oil and try a tiny bit of it in the cake. My other thought was just to make a lemon cake mix and a chocolate cake mix and use half of each, maybe making cupcakes with the rest.

                  Thanks for your help!

                  1. re: Birmingham

                    What is the liquid in the recipe? You might be able to substitute some lemon juice for it.

                    1. re: visciole

                      Here's the entire recipe so you can see it--not written exactly the way it is in the book but in my shorthand way--but the amounts are correct.

                      Chocolate Lemon Marble Cake from "Hershey's Chocolate Collection"
                      (photo showed it as a Bundt cake drizzled with chocolate)

                      1. Stir in a large bowl:
                      2-1/2 c flour
                      1-3/4 c sugar
                      2 t baking powder
                      1 t baking soda
                      1/2 t salt

                      2. Add:
                      1/3 c butter or margarine
                      1/3 c shortening
                      3 eggs
                      1-2/3 c buttermilk or sour milk
                      2 t vanilla
                      Mix on medium speed for 3 minutes

                      3. Stir together:
                      1/3 c cocoa
                      1/3 c sugar
                      1/4 t baking soda
                      1/4 c water
                      Blend into 2/3 cup of the vanilla batter from above.

                      4. Blend into remaining batter:
                      2 tsp freshly grated lemon peel
                      1/4 t lemon juice

                      5. Drop spoonfuls into prepared 12-cup tube or bundt pan, greased and floured. [As I said previously, it doesn't "drop": you just have to pour it in the pan. Then add chocolate spoonfuls on top. Swirl with knife or metal spatula to create marbled effect.

                      6. Bake at 375 degrees 35-40 min. until wooden pick comes out clean. Cool 15 min. Remove from pan to wire rack and cool completely. Glaze with Cocoa Glaze. [Didn't copy the glaze recipe.]

                      1. re: Birmingham

                        Well, it's made more complicated by the fact that you're supposed to divide the batter and make part of it chocolate. But if this weren't the case, I'd try using the equivalent amount of dried buttermilk (Saco brand is great), which you sift into the dry ingredients, and then I would use maybe a cup and a third of water and a third a cup of lemon juice. Seems like there's plenty of sugar to handle the extra lemon. I'd probably also add more zest, but I'd taste the batter and see. I know, raw eggs, but I often taste the batter anyway.

                        Keep in mind I'm the type who enjoys experimenting with baking -- I know many people do not! I like a challenge and don't mind eating the results even if they're not perfect.

                        1. re: Birmingham

                          After seeing the recipe, I'm going to say I th ink the addition of 1/2 teaspoon of Boyajian's lemon oil OR 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon extract will be all you'll need to make the batter appropriately lemony.

                          Lemon and dark chocolate are a great combination, imho. One of our favorite desserts is a Lemon Tart that has bittersweet chocolate spread on the baked crust before filling.

                          1. re: Birmingham

                            I think the recipe is wrong. I think at those proportions it should be lemon extract, not juice.

                            1. re: milklady

                              Does lemon extract have a natural lemon taste to it? I just saw some at the store tonight and wondered if I should try it. And 1/4 tsp makes sense for this recipe?

                              1. re: Birmingham

                                I don't like it, compared to using lemon juice/zest/oil and 1/4 tsp won't add anything to the lemon taste. The oil is your best bet for a real whammy of lemon flavor, juice or zest in the batter, or a lemon glaze that's allowed to soak into the cake.

                    2. Maybe it's me but I don't see lemon and chocolate. It's possible the chocolate is just overpowering the lemon.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: rainey

                        Actually the flavors work well together. Yum.

                        1. re: Quine

                          It does seem unusual for cake, but See's Candies sells a dark-chocolate-covered "lemon chiffon buttercream truffle" that's very nice.

                        2. re: rainey

                          I love lemon and chocolate together but now that I think of it, the first and maybe only time I had it was when in Siena I had a gelato combination of chocolate and lemon that was absolutely heavenly. I don't know what it is about gelato that it worked perfectly--think it would be unappetizing to combine chocolate ice cream and lemon sherbet. Guess because they were both of the same creamy texture.

                          I hadn't thought of it before, but I'm not sure I've had the combination since--just chocolate and orange which I love too (esp. World Market's chocolate orange rolled wafer cookies). Maybe I'm trying to recapture that taste I had years ago in Italy...

                          1. re: Birmingham

                            I love the combination of dark chocolate bars with sizable chunks of candied lemon peel or candied orange peel, and am always wondering why there aren't more confections with a similar pairing.

                            For me, the taste for the citrus-chocolate combination was introduced way back through Jacob's orange-flavoured chocolate bars.

                          2. re: rainey

                            I agree, rainey - the very idea of lemon and chocolate together is completely offputting to me. MAYBE white chocolate, but milk or dark, never. As a kid, I never liked black and white cookies much, because the local bakery use a lemony-flavored cookie. I tend to agree with visciole that the recipe probably meant 1/4 cup juice, or 1/4 tsp oil or extract.

                            1. re: rainey

                              I really like it. If you enjoy chocolate with fruit -- orange, raspberry, etc. -- it's actually quite an easy leap to chocolate with lemon. Two strong flavors that taste great together! But the lovely thing about cooking is that you can modify anything to your own preferences.

                              1. re: visciole

                                Yup! I can see that. ...but I still just can't make the transition. No matter. Just cause it might not work for me is no reason for others not to enjoy it.

                                I like them both exceptionally well, of course, and I guess I'd like to have the clean fresh flavor of lemon be lemony and the dark full flavor of chocolate be chocolatey. ::shrug::

                                Anyway, hope the OP works out her/his dilema.

                                1. re: rainey

                                  I'm not very fond of the lemon/chocolate combo either. It's not very often used, although I have seem chocolate wedding cakes filled with lemon curd. Bittersweet chocolate is better with lemon than other chocolates, but give me orange or raspberry with chocolate, even pineapple, anytime.

                                  The Hershey's recipe looks suspiciously like some of their cake recipe bases.

                                  I'm just wondering if the lemon flavored batter in this recipe is just suppose to be a hint of lemon, rather than something stronger, as if meant to be that way. 1/4 tsp lemon juice and 1 tsp zest is nothing for flavoring.

                                  I just found a Sara Moulton Cooking Live show cake, recipe courtesy of Nick Malgieri, called German Chocolate Marble Cake, baked in a tube pan, containing bittersweet chocolate rather than cocoa, but also containing 4 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp zest. It is very rich, lots of butter and eggs and some rum as well:


                                  If the OP uses her Hershey's recipe, she's got some good suggestions for brightening the lemon flavor.

                            2. I made an absolutely delicious lemon cake for my father-in-law's wedding cake last month. It was a complete improvisation on another recipe, but turned out *really* well and was the favorite, even with the die-hard chocolate fans.

                              I used a basic Crazy Cake recipe (all over the web--also called wacky cake and a few other things). That's my favorite chocolate cake recipe ever, by the way, and it astoundingly easy to make.

                              Obviously, I didn't add the cocoa powder when I converted it to a lemon cake recipe. I made the recipe as stated, but I omitted the cocoa powder and replaced it with flour. I added 2 T of King Arthur's Lemon Powder (available here ), and the zest of one lemon (straight off the tree in the back yard). Bake as normal.

                              I torted the cakes, and made a soak of simple syrup and lemon juice. I have no idea what the ratios were, I just tasted it until it tasted right. Bright and lemony but not too tart.

                              Squirt each layer (except the very top) liberally with the lemon soak. I just used Italian meringue buttercream between the torted layers. I wouldn't use anything that would compete too much with the fabulous and bright lemon flavor.

                              It was *good*. Really, seriously good. It actually tasted lemony, unlike every other lemon cake I've had!

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